Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Iraq Study Group: Options at Home and Over There

Well, we’ve had a chance to digest the report of the Iraq Study Group. And while one welcomes this “intervention” by the consigliere of the Republican establishment - James Baker - (plus a smattering of elderly sages and fig-leaf “democrats”) - for infusing a note of reality into what has been a right-wing hallucinatory delusion-fest...

...nevertheless, one has to wonder about the study group’s credibility for several reasons.

1) As Sen. Russ Feingold noted: ”The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place (nor) the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy... to the war on terrorism.”

2) Indeed, the ISG is rife with people who helped to make the basic mess -- members of the administration of Bush Sr., who deliberately left Saddam Hussein in power, in the Betrayal of 1991, when our administration stabbed in the back an Iraqi Shia population that was at that time truly ready and eager to welcome American liberators with “kisses and flowers.”

So much for the group’s profile-of-merit from the perspective of Sane America. As we have noted elsewhere, this kind of process would work better if we had bona fide predictions registries, that would accurately and objectively track (and score) the credibility of so-called wise men, based on their actual record of being right... I mean, being correct..

Nevertheless, an emphasis on global-scale worthiness misses the point. Comments Russ Daggatt:

The point of this whole exercise was to give Bush political cover to change course. It had to seem "bipartisan" and "above the fray." But it also had to be a group that Bush -- not the Democratic party or the American people or the world, but Bush -- might actually listen to. (Ponder any intervention with an alcoholic.) Bush has no interest in policy. He has never had any interest in policy. Everything for him is about politics and power. The world consists of those who are with him or against him. Any hint that the ISG was against him and it would be useless. There is no need to tell the American people this stuff. They have figured it out. That is what the election last month was all about. (Anyone who is still hanging in there with Bush in support of his Iraq war at this point is probably not going to deal with reality no matter who confronts him with it.)

Hence the retro/aged/fogey/conservative nature of the commission is, in this case, a genuine asset.

So, what shall we do, now that there is a consensus that this is precisely the same sort of mistake that almost wrecked our nation back in the era of Vietnam? (Indeed, if some horrible enemy had taken control over our executive branch - say through blackmail or cronyism or Manchurian Candidate brainwashing - and that enemy wished us harm, what plan would they have followed other than to send us into the same kind of blunderous land war of attrition in Asia that was the only major US mistake of the 20th Century? Can you come up with even one better way for such an enemy to use such power?)

Ah, well. Let us (in good will) ponder the options offered by the ISG. According to Daggatt, there are three primary directions we can take in Iraq:

OPTION 1/ The status quo (otherwise known as "staying the course). Simply in its description of current trends in Iraq, the ISG report makes it abundantly clear that what we are doing now isn't working.

OPTION 2/ Increase troop levels. This is the approach being advocated by, for example, John McCain (and the whole "bomb-them-to-the-Stone-Age" crowd). It is not a serious policy prescription (even if you buy off on all the premises that got us into this disastrous war in the first place).

First, we don't have more troops to send. From Monday’s Wall Street Journal:
"... Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander in the Middle East, recently told lawmakers that the U.S. couldn't maintain even a relatively small increase of 20,000 soldiers in Iraq for more than a few months. "The ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now," he testified in November."

(Note by DB: I find this simply terrifying. The readiness situation is worse than even I thought, and I am among the few who have even raised it as an issue, relentlessly, for the last three years. If Bill Clinton had so thoroughly demolished not only our active duty forces, but our reserves, he not only would have been impeached and convicted, but probably assassinated by now... by many of the same people who now hypocritically avert their gaze and ignore the fact that we are less prepared for surprise emergencies than the nation was, going into Pearl Harbor. Ignoring it because we have been stripped naked by “their” guys.)

(Daggatt resumes:)
Second, if we did have spare forces, we should probably send them to Afghanistan, where there may still be some hope of controlling the situation, instead of Iraq. (DB: I have long maintained that the Afghanistan operation has been totally different. Morally and strategically justified and competently planned and executed. (Especially planned - during the CLinton Administration. And it shows.) Yes, it is a quagmire. But of moderate size and cost. Moreover, in that country, any outside intervention that actually averts outright disaster and does some good is stunningly impressive.)

And third, another couple of divisions, even if we had them to spare, aren't going to make any difference in securing the country and stemming the "sectarian violence" (i.e., civil war).

OPTION 3/ Reduce troop levels. If we can't maintain the status quo and we can't increase troop levels, this is pretty much it. Not surprisingly, that is where the ISG came out. In order to get unanimous approval of its recommendations (and to get Bush to look at it), the ISG made all manner of qualifications and obfuscations on this point. (Like telling the alcoholic to limit, rather than stop, his drinking.) But that is the direction we're headed. And once you start to leave, there is no good reason to drag it out.

DB resumes. Here I don’t necessarily agree. There is a fourth option that I have mentioned in comments:

OPTION 4/ Kurdistan Plus. I believe this approach that might actually accomplish something of value with the troops we have over there, while reducing their exposure and possibly even undoing the harm perpetrated by morons. While assisting the Iraqi government in training and logistics, pull back most of our forces - and actual combat operations - to what I call Kurdistan Plus -- protecting the one part of Iraq that adores us already...

...plus maintaining strong presence in a generous but tractable top tier of Sunni territory, as well. (Maybe fity or so miles in depth. Not only would this region be out of reach of the infamous Sadr militias and the urban maelstroms of Baghdad etc... yet in control over the Syrian border... But it could be within our level of capability to actually pacify competently, even at reduced troop levels (especially with eager/willing Kurdish help).

This would offer Iraqi Sunnis a choice of:
(1) continuing to fight hopelessly against the Shia Government while searching for (harder-to-reach) Americans to kill, or

(2) coming to some kind of understanding with the Shia-led Iraqi government, or

(3) seeking safety in the Northern Sunni Area, voting with their feet to end their insurgency and view Americans as protectors.

Yes, this would seem to be supporting a de facto partition of the country.

So? Deny this and then let the Sunnis and Shias fume. Let them deal with the obvious -- that this is not a situation that they want to see become an accustomed fait accompli. Time will pressure THEM for a change! To start talking fast and get things straightened out quickly, especially if the alternative prospect looks like a permanently expanded autonomous Kurdistan-Plus.

(There is an added, immature reason to do this. Like, maybe, rewarding the people who have NOT spat on us and tried to kill our sons and daughters... our soldiers who - despite blitheringly-awful Washington leadership - have earnestly been trying hard to help people over there.)

Turkey, also, would be motivated to offer its good offices to come up with a regional deal. (Harsher reactions from Turkey might be kept in check by worries about pleasing the EU.) In fact, all three of the regional powers -- Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- would want to start negotiating quick, lest this situation develop into (horror of horrors) a new, de facto state in the north of Iraq. One that is democratic and prosperous and pro-American.... (um, isn’t that what we said we were after?)

Again, this only boils down to common sense. Why not only occupy the parts of the country where we are liked, and not seen as occupiers? There, we could concentrate on rebuilding and protecting those who actually want our protection, and make a showcase that the rest of Iraq would envy.

Concluding Daggatt’s remarks: The one thing to remember about Bush is that he will never, ever admit a mistake about anything. When, in his news conference with Blair this past week, a British journalist implied that Bush was in denial, Bush said, "You wanted frankness—I thought we would succeed quicker than we did. … And I am disappointed by the pace of success."

SUCCEED quicker than we DID? Pace of SUCCESS? This is like describing falling off a cliff as being "disappointed by the height of our ascent."

Finally, since we were just talking about credibility, in the thread about predictions registries, let’s take a little trip down memory lane. Anyone remember who - during the early phases of the Iraq intervention - said the following?

"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

"[M]y belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . (in) weeks rather than months."

"Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question."

"The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,"

“This will be a cakewalk.”

Oh, where is a predictions registry when civilization needs one?


David Brin said...

An added feature: Here is more about the "war" to take over and suborn the U.S. Officer Corps. (A process that appears to be most-advanced in the Air Force, with the Navy putting up the staunchest resistance.

( I wonder if the solitary/solipsistic sky-knight mentality is part of this... vs. the naval Big Ship metaphor of relentless mutual reliance within a competent crew. This is exactly the distinction between Star Wars and Star Trek that I make in "Star Wars on Trial.)


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A watchdog group that promotes religious freedom in the U.S. military accused senior officers on Monday using their rank and influence to coerce soldiers and airmen into adopting evangelical Christianity.

Such proselytizing, according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has created a core of "radical" Christians within the U.S. armed forces and Pentagon who punish those who do not accept evangelical beliefs by stalling their careers.

"It's egregious beyond the pale," said Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. "We apparently have a radicalized, evangelical Christian Pentagon within the rest of the Pentagon." The group asked the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate a video in which some Army and Air Force officers discuss their faith while in uniform.

According to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the video played for reporters was a promotional tool for Christian Embassy, a group that describes itself as a ministry helping national and international leaders blend faith and work.

Don Quijote said...

OPTION 5/ Get out.

Impeach Bush.
Send all the geniuses who started this war to the Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity.
Get our troops out of the Middle East.
Let them resolve their own problems.

David Brin said...

One more example of this bizarro role-reversal world. Lefties used to be utopian nation-building engage-the world folks and Conservatives were isolationists.

This whole "channeling Cotton Mather" thing is really on target!

Anonymous said...

"Lefties used to be utopian nation-building engage-the world folks"

This is a gross and puzzling mischaracterization.

Actual "lefties" favor their own brand of isolationism. They view nation building or intervention of any sort (at least, as long as the U.S. is involved) as "imperialism" or neo-colonialism.

The whole "puritan" analogy strikes me as strained to the point of being useless.

DB, if you really want to get a handle on how actual "lefties" talk and what they think about, you need to find and listen to a Pacifica radio network station. (Probably through the web, since I really doubt they have an outlet in San Diego.) If you're anything like me, you'll find it aggrevating and exasperating but revealing; a look into a paranoid, insular, and impractical world-view. Think of it as opposition research!

The big difference between the far right and far left: The former's paranoid, insular, and impractical world-view is carried by major media outlets and is actively shaping our foreign and domestic policy.

Ben Tilly said...

Turkey would never support that.

The problem is that the new state would effectively be Kurdistan. Which would put pressure on Turkey in dealing with its own Kurdish minority. There are more Kurds in Turkey than Iraq, and there is a low-grade civil war going on between them and Turkey.

This doesn't mean that it isn't still a decent plan. But we will cause problems for a member of NATO. (Not that Turkey doesn't deserve it, but since when has justice been a factor in how we play politics?)

Anonymous said...

1. Navy Resistance: On shipboard, there is NO privacy. None. So we all pretended not to see or hear things, to give the illusion of privacy that we humans need. Pushy, coercive proselytizing would violate that privacy.
In addition, a warship is about teamwork (you're right there)... and things that break up the team into 'us and them' (Christians of this franchise and everyone else) would break up the team. (The Navy's resistance to Gays stems from the same thing).
The Air Farce is very much in the "Knights of the air" Officers and the peasants who support them. Convert the officers, and the peasants have to convert or die (leave the service). While the Navy has there own aviators, they are seen as 'just another cog', and not as a reason for the service... a Navy pilot attempting the kind of bullying seen in the Air Force would find himself facing a Surface Warfare Officer (Or Submarine!) Admiral giving him a lecture on 'appropriate conduct'.

Stefan Jones: Yes, there were interventist lefties, once upon a time, but it was a while ago that they were thrown out of the Democratic party (or encouraged to leave?) way back in the late 60's. Or do you think Kennedy went into Vietnam because of right wing influence? The NeoCons of the PNAC crowd were leftists, until they couldn't get jobs with Democrats, then they changed sides. Republicans were the party of isolationism, until fear of Communism made them change... Of course, Republicans were quite happy to intervene in small, weak, countries to 'defend American interests' aka maintaining the plantations.
David, would this be another weakness of the Left/Right dictomony? There are leftish interventionists (take up the White Man's Burden! or preventing genocide or prevent dictatorial takeovers), leftish isolationists, rightish isolationist (Pat Buchanan ring a bell?), and rightish interventionists (see current WH occupants).

Turkey would accept it, if we made the carrot (bribes) and stick (punishments) plain enough.

Anonymous said...

Slightly different subject ...

Here's my attempt at defining a liberal target, picking up from a couple of posts ago by Dr. Brin.


It's pretty embryonic, so feel free to add, subtract, multiply whatever. Not many DKos responses yet, but the big one at the end is interesting.

Anonymous said...

Most of the Iraqi Oil is either in the Sunni controlled south, or the Kurd controlled north... leaving none for the poor Shia.

ERic said...

Well, what have I been worrying about the Republicans so much for? It's clear that they actually *do* believe in global warming. They're doing the best they can to mitigate it by screwing up the relationships with Iran and North Korea. They have an ingenious long-term plan of supplying as many antagonists with nuclear weapons as they can because they know that eventually a couple of them will use them on each other, thus reversing global warming.

I bow to their subtle brilliance.

David Brin said...

HH I must offer a slioght correction. It is the once-dominant Sunnis in Iraq's center who have no oil of their own. Hence, even though they are now an abused minority, they oppose regional autonomy, knowing that their region has no source of petroleum revenue.

But Sunnis who live in Kurdistan-Plus could be shown very rapid wealth benefits from being part of that region. I cannot guarantee that they would see sense and make common cause with the Kurds. But if that happened, you might see Iraq split into two, not three. Both nations oil-rich. The northern one, not EXPLICITLY Kurdish, might be more acceptable to Turkey.

Anonymous said...

I have always gotten the two words confused, even as I didn't confuse the two groups.

"The Petty Officer Regrets the Error."

David Brin said...

Argh... some of you are too modest. Adrian should have SHOUTED about the shuttle launch photos Ellis posted at: http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=3183

These pix are the "Eagle Nebula" of space launch pictures!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The Air Force thing is probably a bit harder to nail down then that, but then I have been out of the service since 1989 so I can;t say I have a good modern view. Still, the way it was in the '80s was that the stateside commands, particularly SAC (Strategic Air Command) were the almost oddball branch, tightwads about their rules and regulations and military conformity. I can certainly see that mentality fitting in with officers at the Pentagon.

TAC and overseas commands, however, (those branches with fighter aircraft, as opposed to the bomber and missile commands) tended to be almost he exact opposite. Unlike the view we got of "fighter jocks" in movies like "Top Gun" I've always found that fighter pilots are some of the most laid back folks you'll find. They seem to care about flying more than anything else and military protocol doesn't mesh perfectly with their wanting to maintain a good sense of comradarie with all those support personnel (meaning, mainly, enlisted folk) who keep them happily up in the air.

Those pilots are some of the nicest folk you'll ever meet and in those environments it's real easy to see why the Air Force is sometimes called "the business branch of the service". In those commands the leadership was generally far more interested in results than in all the petty little things that otherwise seem to attract some rather oddly "discipline" minded individuals to so many other branches of the service (or SAC, for that matter!) Teamwork was definitely considered important, but it was teamwork oriented towards accomplishing see-able, do-able goals as opposed to some of the other makework that I'd seen in some other commands and branches.

Of course I was also in Intelligence and we were trained very heavily in the rules of the Geneva Convention (we might be expected to debrief Easter Bloc defectors, though, not "terrorists") and were always reminded that our oath and duty was to review our orders to ensure they were lawful orders. (I could say "question" our orders, but that might imply contradicting an order, when you really didn't do that so much as to do a mental review of what you had been asked to do.)

It may be different today, though.

I will say that I was heavily struck by the odd character of Air Force Basic Training when I went in in 1985. I've heard in other branches that an "us -v- them" mentality between recruits and Drill Instructors (we called them Training Instructors) is effectively encouraged in a way where recruits would look out for each other, fostering a sense of teamwork. In Air Force boot camp we actually had an assigned "Dorm Rat", an individual whose duty was to rat out anyone doing something against regs (and EVERYTHING in boot camp is against regs... it's practically built around being one huge Catch 22.) Instead of fostering teamwork it seemed more to foster looking out for number 1 and sometimes even back-stabbing to foster one's own advantage (which was odd because there is not much in the way of "advantage" in Basic Training anyway!)

Perhaps that mentality started taking over more areas of the Air Force and thus we see more of an opening for that kind of infiltration in the Officer Corp today. It's certainly been some time since I was in, though, so I can't really say how things may have evolved.

Anonymous said...

I actually disagree with your point 2: You make it sound as if it would have been a good idea to invade iraq in 1991. But it wasn't a good idea then as it wasn't a good idea in 2003. Bush and Baker had the good sense to take a few lessons from the disastrous American and Israeli interventions in Lebanon (where the Israelis were actually greeted with flowers by the Shia), and stayed out of this potential mess. The mess might have been a little smaller due to the simple fact that at least at that time adults were in charge and not the inbred morons that are now running the show, but it would have been a bloody mess nonetheless. To install a democracy in Iraq at the point of a gun was always a dangerous fantasy. As past events have shown, the choice was not between democracy and despotism, but between despotism and anarchy. Bush the Younger chose Anarchy and Iraq has to pay the price for his criminal idiocy.

Anonymous said...

I cannot speak of anything beyond anecdotes, as I'm a navy man, but let me tell you a story anyway.

In 2000, I had a skin disorder that required medical treatment. I recieved the treatment at the San Diego Naval Hospital (Balboa). The doctor's assistant was a Air Force Staff Sargent, a E-5 enlisted man. He insisted on calling me (a First Class Petty Officer, a E-6 enlisted man) "Sir". So I answered with the standard enlisted man's joke: "Don't call me Sir, I work for a living!" And he explained to me that calling superiors "Sir" was a requirement in the Air Force, even for fellow enlisted men.
Story two:
Dad was Air Force in the early 1960's, stationed at a pilot training base in Alabama. He says there was a definite difference between 'fighter jocks', pilots from WW2 and Korea (and the ones who wanted be like them) and the 'Acadamy Grads'. Fighter Jocks acted like you describe: the enlisted guys who fixed the plane, armed and gassed the plane, cooked the food, guarded the base, and mowed the lawns were buddies to be glad handed, cajoled, bought sodas in trade for doing thier job well... to the academy grads, the enlisted men were serfs to thier nobility. What Dr. Brin describes makes it sound like the Academy grads have taken over the Air Force, and that the Evangelical Christians have taken over the Academy.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Brin said...

jallabo, Saddam was an utter loony genocidal monster and it was a moral duty of the era’s “pax” to remove him if (1) it could be done without undue risk and (2) if part of an already UN-legalized police action. ANYTHING would be an improvement over him.

But it goes farther than that. In Operation Desert Storm we were ALREADY invading Iraq and had approached just miles short of Basra, where the local population had ALREADY rebelled against Saddam's secret police at OUR urging.

"Rise up! We'll be there soon!" Those were the words of Bush SR. cast (in our name) over radio throughout Southern Iraq.

And they rose up, counting on us. We were morally bound to keep that promise. Betraying it, and them, is one of the worst stains on our honor in the nation's history. And it was the Bush family "grownups" who did it.

(Watch the movie “Three Kings” to witness this betrayal in action.)

Indeed, there was no need to go to Baghdad or to occupy the country. None at all! We had only to go 2 days march farther than we already had gone, in order to liberate most of the Shia (and oil) areas. At a time when they really and truly would have been grateful.

Saddam's generals would then have likely gathered the nerve to off him. But even if they hadn't, he would thereupon have ruled the impoverished Sunni Center. Big deal!

Dig it, we KNOW it's likely to have worked, because this is PRECISELY what we did in the Kurdish north! Where peace and prosperity have reigned under US protection for 15 years and where we genuinely ARE appreciated. (Proof that this war is insane NOT because all US-led interventions are intrinsically insane, but because interventions planned by lying-imbecilles will go far worse than those planned by honest and sincere professionals.)

Nor would we have had to stay in Shia-land very long, in any Desert Storm 91 aftermath. Just long enough for the southerners to have a basic elections quasi (imperfect) democracy of their own. Something halfway between Saddam and Turkey would be just fine as a big step. Wave bye-bye and good luck.

There is only one conceivable reason why this did not happen. You-know-who ordered that Bush Sr not do this. They did not want a rich and free Shia Arab entity nearby. They preferred Saddam... and the Bushites obeyed.

No. This sickness runs deep. Very deep.

David Brin said...

Blog Housekeeping note: It appears that there may be a problem with CONTRARY BRIN and its RSS feed. One occasional participant writes in: “for some reason the feed isn't being picked up anymore by LiveJournal. Has there been a change in the location of the feed or have you changed your account and there is no longer a feed? I do enjoy your thought-provoking entries and it makes it more convenient for me to read your entries along with others all in one site.”

Appreciated! I ask that some of the more tech-savvy members of this community please look into this. Is there a setting that I should re-examine?

This kind correspondent added an item having to do with the ongoing purge of the US Officer Corps.

“...I read about the infiltration of officers of very conservative Christian leanings. There is a video placed on the Christian Embassy website which you might find interesting.


“I find the parts at about 3:45, 5:45, 7:00 , and 9:00 disturbing. I'm pretty sure that the participation of these military officers must somehow be illegal, but I don't know enough about the law to be sure.”

Thanks. And let’s all spread awareness. Right now it is not too late to reach out to these beleaguered men and women who continue making extreme sacrifices in order to stand between us and a fiercely dangerous world, filled with chaos.

One brand of chaos that they protect us from is the kind that the neocons and neo-feudalists have on their long range goal screens... destruction of the Great Experiment in favor of a return to hierarchy and dismal tyranny by the smug, inbred and stupid. Make no mistake, the people on “our side” who spit on crewcut military folks are just as much the enemy as Donald Rumsfeld is. We desperately need to reach out to these men and women... even if many of them are “conservative” in the older and more honorable meaning of that word.

If only because they now desperately need OUR help.

If only because they are the one group well-positioned to ensure that high-placed political loonies cannot fry us at the last minute with their “buttons” poised to unleash apocalypto-ic doom.

If only because they serve.

ERic said...

Here's a Daily Kos post that fits right in with the Prediction Registry. Not surprisingly, a few pundits are quite unhappy with their prediction accuracy being analyzed.

Anonymous said...

Saddam was certainly a rather scary and brutal man, but he was far from being a lunatic. He miscalculated twice with his foreign adventures and had to deal with two major domestic uprisings in its aftermath which he had to be put down with brutal force or otherwise risk civil war and disintegration.
If the US had tried to establish a Shia state after GW1, the results would have been almost certainly the same: The Shia would have aligned themselves with Iran and the Sunnis would fight tooth and nail against it, backed lavishly by Saudi money and weapons. This is not a question of gratitude or democracy, but of common interests and ancient feuds and bonds backed by family, tribe, ethnicity and religion.
As for the Kurds, their own day of reckoning will probably come someday in the future. The US will not be willing or able to protect them forever, and no neighbour of theirs has any desire to see an independent Kurdistan.
Ultimately, Saddam was who he was because Iraq is what it is, and not the other way around. Additionally he had the misfortune to rule over Iraq during the time of the Iranian Revolution, a truly pivotal event whose full magnitude and effects can still not be properly assessed.
Without it he would have remained just another rather unimportant thug of the ilk of those who rule over Syria, Jordan or Egypt.

Anonymous said...

It's absurd to say that a US military of over a million men, with about 500K on active duty, could not re-order priorities to put 120K in Iraq, if that would really solve anything. It'd mean pulling troops back from any number of other countries we shouldn't be in - but it could be done.

I'm not sure it'd really help though. Moving in more troops might inspire yet more Islamic insurgents/terrorists to come after us, until eventually it turns into a full scale war between Islam and the US.

Maybe move more troops in, but pull out of the cities (control the countryside - borders and movement between cities - and leave the cities mostly to the Iraqis fpr better or worse).

It might not end the strife, but it'd reduce US casualties, making it politically more feasible to remain in Iraq. And US troops would be doing less damage, killing less Iraqis, which might help reduce creation of new insurgents.

Anonymous said...

Via Warren Ellis, please enjoy Bruce Sterling's last Wired column.

One upshot is that futurism itself has no future. Once confined to an elite group, the tools and techniques of prognostication are all widely available. As for pundits: The world used to be full of workaday journalists, with just a thin sprinkling of opinion mongers. Now a TypePad account is a license to deliver nose-to-the-pavement perspective with an attitude. The very word futurism is old-fashioned, way too 1960s. Today's Internet-savvy futurist is more likely to describe himself as a strategy consultant or venture capital researcher. That development doesn't surprise me. Frankly, I saw it coming.

Anonymous said...

Aboard a ship, posture may be loose but discipline is tight. (If you stand ramrod straight on the bucking deck of a ship, not only will you become seasick, you may be pitched over the railing.)

In the late 1970s/early 1980s, a friend told me of an incident he witnessed aboard a Navy ship in the Indian Ocean. Two sailors were fighting over a transistor radio. The captain took the radio and threw it overboard. End of argument. And NOBODY argues with the captain. The captain kept the peace by removing the bone of contention and taught the sailors not to fight among themselves. When you're on a platform in the middle of the ocean, you can't go AWOL as a dissatified soldier can -- in the land-based case, over the hill, literally. Aboard a submarine, sailors must be very easygoing but even more disciplined, trapped in a cylinder underwater for months without a porthole. Personalities must be selected accordingly for the submarine service. Evangelism wouldn't exist -- or at least not for long. If the captain himself tried it, he wouldn't be captain long unless the first officer were in on it.

Woozle said...

In case nobody else has posted this (I'm behind on my reading):

Open Government Agenda at the MorePerfect.org wiki

David Brin said...

Sorry, but it really chaps me to see people make military pronouncements without bothering to understand the basics, first. The US military may possess a million or so members on paper. But when you subtract support and administrative personel... and then remove the Navy and Air Force from consideration for “boots” missions, you are far better off counting from the bottom up... by adding up the number of ready combat brigades the Army and Marines can actually field rapidly and put into play, responding to emergencies in a dangerous world.

We have been cycling these active combat units through Iraq -- wearing them down --at a faster rate than they were used in Vietnam, degrading both equipment and. It is very likely that we have no more that two divisions, right now (one of them committed to Korea) who are fully combat ready and who have been able to train adequately for any mission other than counter-insurgency for years.

I was at Fort Irwin, a year ago -- the National Training Center where full brigades used to get fine-tuned to work as major units together and defeat large opposition forces. Today, small unit CI training is virtually all that goes on there, in ersatz Iraqi “villages”. There is almost no time or money or energy left for actually preparing for actual war.

Not only is this frightening at about twenty different levels, it reflects a rash and cavalier leadership attitude (or something far, far worse) that even conservatives are starting to notice... and that liberals really ought to, if they aren’t completely stupid.

Doris, you nailed it re the Navy. When Nehemia Scudder comes, he will probably have to dissolve the fleet.

Anonymous said...

Orange Off-Topic Alert. . .

Via Jason Rosenhouse's Evolutionblog, yet another example of why we need that prediction registry. I love that the BBC Technology folks can run an article entitled "Blogging 'set to peak next year'" and show in the sidebar another headline, "Blogosphere sees steady growth" from just over a month before. I guess websites don't need to keep a straight face.

Anonymous said...

"Doris, you nailed it re the Navy. When Nehemia Scudder comes, he will probably have to dissolve the fleet."

In Nazi Germany, the Navy actively resisted turning Jews over to the camps, often hiding them (and thier families!) from the SS. It lead Hitler to state that "I have a National Socialist air force, a Prussian army, and a reactionary navy." Jewish sailors and officers would continue to openly serve aboard ship until the end of the war.

Funny, now that I think of it, that R.A. Heinlien's "Revolt in 2100" mentions the Army and Air Force, but not the Navy, given that RAH was a Navy Academy Grad...

David Brin said...

Blogging is an asynchronous interface, and thus it is capable of expressing complex thoughts and sustaining sophisticated human interaction. And therefore it is

(1) useful WHILE gradually and incrementally being improved, like other asynchronous services like email, file transfers and web pages.

(2) only intrinsically limited by the number of opinionated extroverts who have access to the web.

In other words, it qualifies as a useful tool. It will not "peak" or pass away like a fad, though it my transform.

In contrast, most SYNCHRONOUS uses of the internet tend to be faddish and frivolous, or overhyped. Avatar worlds like Second Life, for example. I explain all this in my Google Talk

Of course any day now there may finally arrive videophones or a decent teleconference interface. Or some Virtual World builder will read my patent and realize the reason why synchronous interaction (online) is avoided like a plague, by grownups.

Alas, I have learned not to hold my breath and never to underestimate the capacity of bright people to ignore the obvious.

Anonymous said...

Contrary Brin wins the #13 spot in John Scalzi's Top 50 Personal SF Blogs:

Based on Technorati rankings

* * *

Whenever someone mentions Scudder, I'm going to mention the character he's inspired by (Elmer Gantry) and the author responsible (Sinclair Lewis).

Anonymous said...

Actually, Dr. Brin, back to Iraq, I have a provocative question for you:

If George W. Bush (who has currently pushed back his decision on Iraq untill next year) eventually comes up with some variant of "Stay the course/We'll never leave Iraq even if a ton of evidence shows that we're making things worse and just sacrificing troops" in short, if he makes it clear that the only way to change things in Iraq is to impeach him, would you then support impeachment?

I'm not trying to be a wiseass, I'm just asking what your criteria for impeachment are. I've supported impeachment in the past, and still do, but I'm willing to have my mind changed and the argument(s) "we have other things we need to get done which would be bogged down by impeaching first/let's do the investigations we need to do and if we get more evidence for impeachment then..." somewhat convince me. (Though I partially think that as long as the Republicans have the power of the excutive and judicial branches behind them that many of their abuses may *never* come to light.)

I guess what I'm also asking is, what evidence would convince you that you were wrong with the "Kurdistan Plus" idea. (I don't know if you are right about that one or not; like I said earlier, how would I even begin to measure such a thing?)

David Brin said...

Stefan thanks for showing my technorati rating. Some of the folks above me on the list are either very smart/entertaining/aarticulate... or else young/hot/in.

Alas, a few of them are among the vicious lying/bitchy/gossips who have infested a once collegial genre, turning the SF/pro community into a minefield-jungle filled with harpy-snakes who make High School politicians look positively mature. (I only now made a connection between this trend inside SF and the infantilization of politics and discourse on the national scene.) Alas.

Jon. I do not expect my Kurdistan Plus plan to be given any more heed than my plan (in 2002) to dicker with Iran, offering them PRECISELY the same influence they now have in Southern Iraq, in exchange for vast amounts of assistance in a restored alliance against Saddam.

Look, if I had my druthers, I'd impeach, try and convict these raging horrors. DO you think I WANT to leave them in power over our armed forces, the FBI, the Justice Department... and the BUTTON... for two more years?

But I am trying for the big picture, here. There is no way that we'll convict and remove them with today's senate. Moreover, the attempt will strengthen Karl Rove exactly as he wants, by stoking culture war.

And it's worse. Right now, we have a good chance of winning over the older-saner types of "conservatives"... including much of the civil service and officer corps... maybe even a lot of the non-commissioned officers. If we have them... or even have them AWAKE to what's going on... then the real nightmare can be staved off.

The nightmare of rash/crazed/loony/evil last minute spasms by desperate bozos, hysterical over an oncoming loss of power.

Anonymous said...

One one positive note, bruce Sterling's last wired column http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.12/posts.html?pg=6 shows him at the end to be more of an optomist than I had thought. I remember reading the library speeches, you, hem and Hans Moravic (don't remember the spelling on that one) gavem and sometime back on this blog you pointed him out as one we need to see the down side of things.

It's interesting to see a different trend; now if only this didn't come during a general ill feeling about our current government and its military, foreign misadventures, general corruption, etc.

(and yes, I am heartened by the recent Dem victory and look forward to Henry Waxman looking out to clean up dodge city.)

Anonymous said...

And I just when I post optomistic, I see on the bbc website that Bush is likely to call for a troop increase. Feh. I'm off to see a Cindy Sheehan lecture.

Anonymous said...

DB: "Sorry, but it really chaps me to see people make military pronouncements without bothering to understand the basics, first. The US military may possess a million or so members on paper. But when you subtract support and administrative personel... and then remove the Navy and Air Force from consideration"

There's "over a million men" and "500K on active duty" just in the Army - not Navy or Air Force. But you knew that of course, because you know the basics about our military.

Yes, of course a large fraction of the Army is support - about 70% in Iraq - and yes, that would apply to whatever number is sent there. How does that imply that we could not deploy more troops to Iraq, if there were any valid reason to do so?